Having a baby today is all about making decisions. Which doctor to go to. Which hospital to deliver at. What are your health concerns. Do you want to go natural. Do you want convenience. Where is your insurance accepted. Which hospital has the best reputation. Etc., etc., etc.
Living in New York, with over a dozen major, top-quality hospitals within driving distance, the umbrella of choices becomes that much larger. In contrast to smaller cities where expectant parents are limited to two or three respected hospitals, New York offers a wealth of top doctors, hospitals, and other health resources.
So whether it’s you or a loved one who is expecting to give birth in the near future, let this article serve as a starting point for your research in making this most important decision. As any new mom can attest (this reporter included!), the quality of your birth environment and experience has a critical impact on your emotional wellbeing and early bonding with your newborn. So take your time, do your research and make the choice that’s best for you.
How to Choose a Hospital and Healthcare Provider
Madeline Jaffe, a parent-family education manager and childbirth educator at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center said the first step is for a women to actually plumb the depths of her own psychology and figure out what her personal needs are and what type of healthcare consumer she is.
“While some people may want to go to a provider that’s very directive, where the healthcare consumer feels that this individual is highly trained with years of experience and ‘who am I to question them’ others may prefer a more natural and holistic attitude, where they feel, ‘if something’s not broken, don’t fix it.’” Those people should have a different healthcare provider, one who is not quick to do interventions but will let things take a natural course, Jaffe said.
“Some people are in love with 21st century technology and embrace all the bells and whistles, and some hospitals in the city have a reputation for being more high-tech. They’ll have doctors on staff who will not necessarily embrace a more natural approach, and they may push epidurals, push testing, they may be quicker to induce rather than take a wait and see attitude.”
The most important thing, Jaffe said, is to have a partnership with your physician or midwife and discuss your needs and expectations so you can chart your course.
Services to Look For in a Hospital
When evaluating a hospital, Jaffe recommends looking at the kinds of services the hospital provides:
* Do both midwives and physicians deliver?
* What level of Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) do they have? (Expectant parents should look for a level 3 which provides for all situations.) What sort of NICU services do they provide?
* Do they have a maternal/fetal health medicine department and offer genetic testing and counseling?
* Do they offer a variety of courses, ranging from childbirth classes to parenting classes?
* Do they have lactation consultants 24/7 or only a few times a week?
* Does the hospital provide for rooming-in, allowing the baby to stay with the mother immediately after birth, which is good for bonding and early development?
* Do they have 24-hour OB anesthesia, allowing you to get pain relief whenever necessary?
Sara Chana Silverstein, a doula and lactation consultant who practices in LA and NY, recommended finding a hospital that is registered as “baby-friendly.” This means a new mother has the option of “rooming-in” and having the baby stay with her, as opposed to staying in the nursery, as well as the opportunity to breastfeed on the birthing table, among other things. “You can call a hospital to find out if they are registered,” she said.
Silverstein also recommended finding out if they have lactation consultants on call – a lot of hospitals advertise lactation consultants, but once you’re at the hospital you may find out they only come in twice a week for a half-day, which may not be when you need them.
“People should always take a tour to see the facility,” Silverstein suggested. She said that often in the big hospitals in NY where hundreds of babies are delivered each month, it can feel like giving birth in a factory – “you tend to be like a number.